Click here: The Write Conversation: An Unlikely Publishing Story – Hope for When You F…: by Lori Hatcher @LoriHatcher2
Jerry loves God and those around him. He ministers through his local assembly, studies the Bible, and counsels his friends and neighbors……
After explaining WHY He is now speaking to the people ONLY in parables*, Jesus explains the meaning of the Parable of the Sower (actually the Soils). It is important that Jesus tells them because by understanding this first parable, the disciples will be able to understand ALL the parables. (Mark 4:13)
The SOWER is Jesus here, but also the Old Testament prophets, the disciples, the apostles, preachers, teachers, and all true believers.
The SEED is “the Word” (the Word of God, the truth of God, the Gospel of salvation, the Grace of God in truth, the Word of Christ, the Truth, the Good News, the imperishable Seed, the living and abiding Word of God, Truthful speech, and the “washing” detergent which the Holy Spirit uses when He regenerates believers.**) that the sowers scatter into the world (as per the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20, and Mark 16:15-16).
The SOILS are the hearts of the hearers of the Word. All of them listen, but their responses differ. Only a few will truly HEAR the message, receive it, accept it, believe it, obey it…. and ultimately become fruitful.
#1 Soil = No interest.
#2 Soil = Superficial commitment.
#3 Soil = Love of the world is too strong.
#4 Soil = Understanding, believing, are regenerated, and bear fruit.
Long afterwards, Jesus’ brother James, one of those true believers, writes a warning and a call to commitment for us in his book, “Be DOERS of the Word, and not HEARERS ONLY, deceiving yourselves.” James 1;22
* Jesus gave the crowds ample opportunity to hear his direct teaching (see the previous post), and believe in Him. For those who did, He gives further understanding, to those who rejected Him, he now speaks in mysteries and secrets. Those who are willing to HEAR, receive more. Those who REFUSE, lose what bit of understanding they had.
** See Romans 10:17, Ephesians 1:13, Colossians 1:5, I Thessalonians 2:13, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 1:22-25,
This story is Twelfth in the Missionary Kids Stories about the Matthews family who live in Malawi, Africa. Each story is written in the form of a letter from one of the Matthews’ children. There are seven children. This one is from April, the middle girl, who wrote the Seventh story, “Just Pretending.”
I write these stories so young readers can learn about missionary life in Africa. The MKs (Missionary Kids) will tell stories about cultural differences, such as eating DEAD MICE in the first MK story, or why guard dogs are necessary in Malawi – BIG BLACK DOGS, the second story. (By the way…. the main character in the first story, appears in this one too, and wait till you see what happens to him!!)
My goal is to entertain and inform the children, but mostly I want to quietly teach them important truths from the Bible, God’s Word, for everyday life.
*** If you are new to the MK Stories, you can read this story first, if you like, but then go back to the FIRST story and meet the kids in order. http://bit.ly/2dnnrhD
April’s Amazing “NO” Play
It’s April again.
Guess what? I wrote a play!
I really wanted Daniel, who played the part of Jesus in the pageant, to be Peter in my play. The whole play is about Peter! I thought for sure he would do it. But he said he couldn’t because he had to get all his wisdom teeth pulled.
So I asked my brother Marshall.
“No way, April. That’s kid’s stuff. Besides, I’ve got a ton of homework to do before spring break”
I plopped down on the couch and took a big, long breath. What was I going to do? I need a boy to play the part.
“How about your other brother,” Mom suggested.
“Gus? No way! He messes around and won’t be serious. And he’s always wanting to ride his bike or play soccer with Jacob.” Actually, kids, ALL the boys I know just keep staring at that new soccer stadium at the end of our street and dreaming that they will play in it someday. Seriously?
So who was there left? I couldn’t have a play about Peter without Peter. Maybe Julie could dress up as a boy, or even Melody or June. But I needed them for the girl parts.
“What about Kukana?” asked Melody out of the blue. (That means, I didn’t even ask her, she just said it.)
“What?” I said. “That dead mice eating boy? No way.”
“Well, he probably wouldn’t want to be in your dumb old play anyway. He’d just say NO!” Melody stomped off to her room.
My head whipped around. “What did you say!!!”
My eyes were open wide and I started grinning. Because, kids, that’s when I knew it was SUPPOSED to be Kukana for the part of Peter. Peter was the disciple who was always saying “NO!” I would ask him that very next Sunday!
Kukana started coming to Sunday School after Melody showed him up about eating m’bewa (that’s dead mice…eew!) I think he kind of likes her, but she doesn’t see that at all. She is so…. so…. well, not interested in that kind of thing. Mom says that’s good, because she’s too young.
But it turns out, Kukana was only interested in the snacks Melody brought to class when it was her turn. Of course SHE didn’t make the brownies, Mom did. But Kukana thought it was Melody, so he was being really nice to her to get… thirds or fourths…if there was any left. I guess he likes chocolate brownies even more than dead mice. Yuck.
Okay, so I asked Kukana if he wanted to star in my play.
“NO!” he said.
“Perfect!” I said.
“Huh?” he said.
“We’ll practice at our house,” I told him. “Mom will have cookies or something. She always does…..”
“Cookies?” he asked, raising his eyebrows way up high.
“Hmmm,” he said and licked his lips. “What’s the play about?”
“It’s a Bible story about Peter’s no’s.”
“Peter’s NOSE? What’s wrong with Peter’s nose? Does it get longer and longer like Pinocchio’s when HE told lies, like in that cartoon video we saw at school? You know, the one during Inter-gritty week… or whatever.”
“Integrity Week,” I explained. “It means always being truthful. And no, the play’s not about Peter as Pinocchio.”
I paused for a minute right then, imagining Peter’s nose growing every time he denied knowing Jesus. That might be a cool angle…I could fix up a fake nose to….. But, NO! This was a Bible story play. It had to be all true.
“Peter isn’t going to be like Pinocchio in my play,” I told Kukana.”Sure, he did tell a lie three times when he was really scared. But he did something even worse! He told Jesus “NO!” That’s what my play is about.”
“Um…. I don’t know….”
“But you can say “NO” really well! I heard you. And Melody said so too. You’d be great!”
“And there’ll be brownies…..”
“Okay, I’ll be in your play about Peter’s nose.”
“That’s what I said, nose. The nose knows! Hahaha!” He laughed, stuck his two pointer fingers into his nose holes, and danced around.
I was already having second thoughts about him. But who else was there?
We had the first “read-through” of my play the next Sunday afternoon. (A read-through is when everybody in the play sits in a circle with a copy of the script, and reads their parts out loud. You can see where the whole play is going that way.)
First there was me (the script writer, producer, and director). I was going to be the narrator too (the person who reads the Bible passage before each scene) but I decided to ask Julie. She’s a really good reader. I might have to tell her to read LOUDER, but that’s okay.
Then Kukana, of course, who was Peter. He came to the read-through with an old clothespin pinched on his nose. He yelped when Andrew pulled it off and I thought it served him right. This was supposed to be a serious play!
I’d asked Andrew Kopp to play Jesus. He arrived in a long white “angel” robe left over from the Christmas play. He didn’t HAVE to be in costume, but he said he wanted to get used to walking in it. Hey…you can’t say “no” to Jesus.
Oh wait! That’s what my play’s about!
Caleb Ayres agreed to play the disciple John. I wasn’t going to have any other disciples in my play. It was too hard to get boys to be serious (THREE was enough).
Melody and June said they would play the maid and other person in the courtyard who asked Peter if he knew who Jesus was. So that was six in all. I might need someone to help with props….. if I had props.
We all sat down on the grass in our back yard, with the scripts on our laps. Andrew had to hike up his robe so he could sit cross legged.
“Okay, here’s what my play is about…” I started.
“Shouldn’t we pray first?” asked June.
“Oh, yeah. I forgot.” I said and bowed my head. “Thank you, God for giving me the idea for this play. Help it to be good. Help everybody to learn their lines and be nice to each other. And help everyone who sees it want to know about Jesus as their Savior.”
“Amen-n-n-n-n-n-n-n!” yelled Gus, who had been hiding behind a tree next to our circle. “Can I watch?”
I wanted to say NO! (Gosh, I was beginning to sound like Peter!) But I said, “Yes, but don’t interrupt the reading, okay?”
He ran around the tree trunk two times then plopped down in front and leaned back against it. “Okay, go.”
“Curtain up…” I said.
“There’s going to be a curtain?” asked Kukana?
“NO!” (there I go again!). “It’s just something you say when a play starts.” I cleared my throat, “Curtain up,” I said again and nodded to Julie.
She began reading the Bible passage like I’d written it in my script. It was from Matthew 16.
“Now Jesus asked his disciples……” read Julie.
Caleb (disciple John): “Some say you are John the Baptizer, or Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.”
Andrew (Jesus): “But who do YOU say I am?”
There was a minute of silence till Kukana found his place. I was beginning to wonder if he even could read!
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” he finally said in amazement. “Wow, is that true?” he asked, looking at me.
I nodded, put my finger against my lips, then pointed to the script.
Andrew (Jesus): “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! My Father in heaven revealed that to you. And from now on you….”
“His name is Simon? I thought it was Peter?” said Kukana. “And who is this Barjonah guy?”
Gus was giggling now and Kukana gave him a nasty look. “Well, my dad isn’t a preacher, Gussy. I don’t know all the Bible stuff like you do!”
Gus was about to say something about that nick-name but I gave him a stern look and he shut his mouth. “Sorry,” he said under his breath.
“Jesus changed his name to Peter right then, Kukana,” said Andrew. “I was just about to read it.” He looked at his script and finished his line, “…from now on, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church so strong that even that bad place can’t win against it.”
Andrew looked at me. “‘…that bad place? You can say Hell when you are talking about the place where the devil lives. My dad said it was okay.”
I sighed and took out my pencil. I crossed out “that bad place” and wrote “H-e-l-l” over it, then passed around the pencil.
“I’m getting hungry,” said Kukana. “When do the brownies come?”
“I didn’t even tell him about the keys yet!” complained Andrew.
Julie flipped through the pages of the script. “There are still three pages left in this scene.”
“And Kukana…. I mean Peter…. hasn’t said NO yet,” Melody reminded me.
“Grrrrr! Is this what working with actors is like?” I complained through clenched teeth.
Gus got up then and sat down beside Kukana. “Let’s just finish this scene, then we can go in and get the brownies and milk. I’ll explain all this to you later. Just read your lines for now. Okay?”
The dead mice eater sighed and nodded.
Andrew (Jesus): “I’m going to give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and you can open the door to all the people I want to come in.”
I could see Kukana wanted to say something, but he glanced at Gus and kept quiet.
Julie went on, “From then on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer a lot of things from the Jewish leaders and be killed, and on the third day rise again. Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him, saying…..”
Gus elbowed Kukana and he said Peter’s line: “NO WAY, Lord!! This shall never happen to you if I can help it!!
Andrew (Jesus): “Get behind me, Satan! Don’t try to stop me! You are not setting your mind on things of God, but on things of man!”
Kukana looked confused. “Why did Jesus call Peter, Satan? That’s not nice. I don’t like that name!” He shivered, then added, “Besides, wasn’t Peter trying to protect Jesus from getting hurt? Why was it bad for him to say “NO”?”
“Because Jesus HAD to die, Kukana,” Julie explained to him softly as we headed to the house. “God sent Jesus to earth for just that reason – to die.”
“Because otherwise WE would die and go to….Hell,” Gus broke in. “The Bible says we all sin and God can’t allow people who sin into His heaven because He’s holy. People who sin have to die. That’s the rules. So God sent Jesus, who never sinned, to die in our place. That way, when we believe on Him, and tell Him that we are sorry, our sin is all forgiven and we CAN go to Heaven to be with God forever.”
Kukana just stared at Gus. “Didn’t Peter know that?”
“Nope. Not then. And not for a long time,” Gus explained, opening the side door of our house. “None of the disciples really knew that till after Jesus rose up.”
Kukana was about to say something else, but just then, he caught the smell of brownies and his stomach growled. It actually growled loud enough for me to hear it!!!
We all made a bee-line into the kitchen where Mom’s warm brownie squares were sitting on the counter with glasses of cold milk. Oh, yum!!
Well, kids, that’s how the rest of the read-throughs went. There had to be several of them because Kukana kept asking questions and interrupting everything. I have to admit I got pretty impatient sometimes.
Gus stayed by him and tried to explain. And so did Julie. Actually, I was surprised at Gus. He didn’t want to be in my play because he had “other things to do, ” but he came to all the meetings. He was really nice to Kukana too.
The second scene in my play comes from John 13 and happens in the room where Jesus was going to eat the Passover meal with the disciples. They all had been arguing about who was the greatest and who would get the best jobs in Jesus’ kingdom.
(I was going to put their argument in my play, but I thought the boys would get side-tracked into REAL arguments about sports and who had the best bikes or could run the fastest, and stuff like that… and my play would be ruined. So I just had Julie read about it.)
Then she read how not one of the disciples offered to wash all their dirty feet before dinner. I guess they did that in Bible days. We wash our hands, but…. well, that’s how it was then. No one volunteered, so Jesus got up to do it.
Julie: “Jesus poured water into a bowl and began to wash the disciples feet and to wipe them with a towel. He came to Peter who said…..”
Kukana (Peter): “NO WAY, Lord, do you wash MY feet!!” Then he whispered something to Gus and they both giggled, but got quiet again when I gave them a stern look.
Andrew (Jesus): “If I don’t wash you, Peter, you have no part with me.”
Kukana (Peter): “Then Lord, wash ALL of me!”
This time he couldn’t help bursting out laughing. “That would be sooooo embarrassing!” he added, falling backward onto the grass. “I would NEVER ask Jesus to give me a bath in front of all the other guys! That Peter was really stupid!”
“Let’s finish this,” said, and nodded to Andrew.
Andrew (Jesus), who had started laughing with Kukana, tried hard to get serious. He cleared his throat, snorted one last laugh through his nose, then said his line: “The one who has bathed does not need to wash except for his feet. You are already clean, Simon Peter.”
Kukana looked amazed, “So then what was all the talk about washing and baths if they were already clean? This is why I don ‘t read your Bible. It doesn’t make sense!”
“It was symbolic, Kukana!” I said, getting really impatient. “Jesus meant that Peter’s heart was already clean because he believed in Jesus. He just needed the everyday sins he committed to be washed away. Sheesh, Kukana! Don’t you know anything?”
“I’m not dumb April!” Kukana said, suddenly serious. “I know a lot of things! I could say your whole play in Chichewa! Could YOU?????”
He got up and threw down his script.
“April….” Julie said in a low voice, frowning at me.
“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “I didn’t mean you were dumb, Kukana. I know you aren’t. Please forgive me.”
Kukana glared at me for a few minutes, then shrugged, picked up the script and sat down.
Julie said we should finish the scene because Jesus had one more line.
Julie finished the narration: “For Jesus knew who would betray him.”
“That’s me, right?” asked Kukana, sitting up straight.
“No,” Andrew said, “You’re going to deny me, not betray me.”
“What’s the difference?”
“C’mon, Kukana,” Gus said and helped his new friend get up. “I’ll explain when we go in the house. I think there are chocolate chip cookies today!”
I watched them run to the back door together. I was beginning to think that Gus would have made a pretty good Jesus too.
We finally got to the live rehearsals. I was surprised that Kukana memorized his lines so quickly.
“That’s not unusual,” Mom said. “In the villages, most of the stories are passed down orally – that means they are told from memory, not from reading them in a book. A lot of Kukana’s relatives still live in the village.”
Andrew did pretty well with his ‘Jesus’ lines too. He knew the Bible stories so well, that even if he changed a couple words here and there, it would still mean the same.
Melody and June had their few lines down perfectly, and Julie did hers by reading from a Bible.
The third “NO” scene went pretty good. Kukana understood that his character really loved Jesus a lot and didn’t want Him to die… and especially not to die all alone! So at the rehearsal (which we were doing in our carport now, pretending that there were people sitting in chairs in the driveway watching us), we didn’t expect Kukana to……..
Well, here’s how it happened
Julie, off to one side, said “After the meal they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.”
When she said that, Andrew, Caleb, Gus (who was now playing Jesus’ other disciple, James), and Kukana walked slowly from the back door of the house to the middle of the carport “stage.” Nobody was carrying scripts now. Everyone knew their lines.
Andrew (Jesus), who was walking very well in his long robe now, said to the three disciples: “You will ALL fall away because of me this night. For the Bible says, ‘I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered’.”
(We’d already explained to Kukana that Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd who would lay down His life for his sheep, and that His “sheep” were the disciples and everyone who would ever believe in Him.)
Kukana (Peter), now in a dark green and brown striped robe said: “Not me! I will NEVER fall away even if these other guys do. Nope. No, No, NO!” He strutted around looking pretty proud.
Andrew (Jesus): “Truly, I tell you Simon, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me THREE TIMES.”
Kukana (Peter): “NO, I will NOT! Even if I have to die with You, I WON’T deny You!” Kukana stomped his foot.
Andrew (Jesus): “Simon, Simon, Satan wants to have you, to try to shake you up. But don’t worry, I have prayed for you that your faith doesn’t fail. And later on, you can help my other disciples.”
Kukana (Peter): “I’m ready to go with you to prison and to..” Suddenly Kukana’s face got very pale and he looked sick, “…to…death.”
I called “Curtain!” and they all knew by then what that meant. Everybody went inside for Mom’s lemon bars, except Kukana.
“April, I don’t want Jesus to say that last line,” he blurted out. “The one about…..about Satan.”
“It’s in the Bible, Kukana. It’s what Jesus says.”
“Yeah, but there’s a lot of other stuff in the Bible that isn’t in your play. I know! I borrowed Teacher Molenaar’s Bible. I read it while I wait for my dad to finish work.” He tugged at the belt of his robe, “I… I don’t like to talk about ‘him’. You know, the devil.” This last word was whispered.
“But…” I started.
“April, last night I had a bad dream. And when I woke up our house was shaking! It was HIM, he was trying to shake me up! April, I know about “bad medicine.” In the village, he… the Medicine Man does BAD stuff to people who go against him. He scares me! I don’t think he wants me to be in this play about Jesus.”
He gulped then finished, “So… if you don’t take out that line… then… I’m going to quit the play. I will!”
Kids, I didn’t know what to say. I remembered the story that Maya told us about being trained by the Medicine Man, and the bad things he wanted Maya to do – even throw poison seeds into a family’s water pot. Maya had escaped – with the help of Jesus…and the Black Mamba.
I looked at Kukana. He was taking off his Peter costume.
“Okay, okay, calm down,” I said. I was trying to think fast… about that scene. Could I take out that line? Maybe…. Peter had already told Jesus his big “NO” so… yes, it could work.
“Okay, I’ll strike that line, Kukana. I’ll take it out. Go inside now for some lemon bars and send Andrew outside. I’ll tell him about the change.”
Kukana looked much better then. He tied his robe belt again, grinned, and ran into the house. “Hey, save some for me, guys!”
Later we rehearsed the scene where Peter denies Jesus three times. Melody and June finally got to say their lines. (They were getting pretty bored by then.)
Kukana said his denials very loud and strong. He wanted to curse for real, but I wouldn’t let him. Gus gave a great rooster crow from the side, and Kukana looked wide-eyed at where the audience would be when he heard it.
At the last minute I decided to include that little half-scene where Jesus is being taken to another trial and He sees Peter’s last denial. Since I took the other line out, I quickly added it to all the scripts. It’s from Luke 22. Here’s what I wrote….
Narrator: “ The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. And Peter remembered what Jesus said, and he went out and cried bitterly.”
Kukana did a good job running off crying.
We rehearsed the last “NO” scene too, but we had a lot of problems with the sheet and the stuffed animals.
You remember that story, right, kids? It’s from Acts 10. It was after Jesus went to heaven and the Holy Spirit came and Peter got really good at preaching. He even healed people in Jesus’ name and raised a young lady, named Tabitha, from the dead.
Then he had that dream where this huge sheet came down from heaven full of all kinds of creepy animals, and heard God tell him to kill them and eat them.
By the way, Kuhana LOVED that scene.
“Can I get some m’bewa and put in the sheet? How about some grasshoppers? I’d eat them!! Just like THAT.” He pretended to put creatures into his mouth and chew them up.
“No, Kukana, the whole idea is that Peter would say NO! It’s the fifth NO he says to God. Peter was a Jew and Jews would never eat things that their religion said not to.”
Then everybody thought the stuffed animals (including a rainbow Unicorn that came from somewhere) just looked dumb. And we couldn’t figure out how to let the sheet down without spilling them. In the end, I just cut the whole scene. We would have FOUR of Peter’s NO’s.
But…. I didn’t like ending my play with Peter (Kukana) running off the stage crying loudly because he denied Jesus.
We all got together after the final rehearsal to talk about it.
Then Andrew came up with a great answer to the problem. “I learned in my home school Bible class that Jesus had a private meeting with Peter after he got resurrected. It’s at the end of Luke, I think. Jesus forgives Peter and welcomes him back. We could show that . This scene could be a “YES” scene when Peter asks for forgiveness and JESUS says “yes.”
We all sat there staring at Andrew. It was perfect!
“Wow!” I said. “And with different costumes, Caleb and Gus could be the soldiers who take Jesus away.”
“Superrrrr Fantasssssstic!” said Gus.
“Yeah, cool,” said Caleb raising two thumbs.
Melody and June told him they loved it too.
I looked it up in the Bible – Luke 24, and 1 Corinthians 15 – and wrote a few lines into my script that I thought Jesus and Peter would say. We went over it a couple of times. It was a PERFECT ending!
The play was just one week later on Sunday afternoon. All our parents, neighbors and friends were invited, although we wouldn’t have enough chairs if everybody came.
“Why don’t you have it in the church,” Dad suggested. “That way there would be plenty of seats. IBF (International Bible Fellowship) doesn’t have anything planned for that afternoon.”
WOW!! My play would be a real pageant, like at Christmas or Easter, and on a real stage!!!
Julie painted some nice posters (she likes purple).
A play by
April Grace Matthews
from the Bible.
Dad printed some half-page programs, naming the scenes and who would be in them. Everyone who came would get one. I asked him to give a closing prayer after it was over and he agreed.
All our costumes were finished. We didn’t have very many props – just the bowl and towel in the “washing” scene, and the cardboard helmets and swords for the soldiers. Marshall helped Gus make those.
I was so excited, I couldn’t even sleep that night.
The big afternoon came. We all went to the church and got into our costumes. We met in the back room (in a theater it is call the “Green Room” but this one was painted white). We looked at our scripts for the very last time. They were pretty ragged by then.
Kukana, Caleb and Gus were nervous and sort of danced around acting stupid. Julie cleared her throat ten times. She was nervous about being in front of an audience.
Andrew stood in his white robe in the middle of the room and grinned.
Our dad peeked in and said the church benches were full and it was about time. He high-fived everyone, then went out to announce the play.
I led the troupe (that’s what you call a group of actors) out to the platform. I took my place in a chair to the side, with a brand new copy of the script. I planned to follow along and if anyone forgot their lines, I would “prompt” them, so they wouldn’t die of embarrassment.
I looked at all the audience and my heart started beating double time.
I leaned toward my actors and whispered, “Talk loud!”
And then it began.
Julie started reading from her Bible softly, but then her voice got nice and loud, “Now when Jesus came to the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples……”
She looked up at Andrew, who stepped forward and said, “Who do people say that I am?”
Caleb and Gus gave their answers, then Kukana gave Peter’s wonderful statement. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”
Next came his loud “NO” about Jesus dying, and Jesus’s hard scolding of him.
A lot of people clapped after scene one. I wiggled in my seat so happy with my play and my … players.
Andrew and Kukana did a great job talking about washing feet and whole bodies. This time my “Peter” didn’t giggle. It was really great!
I had Julie add a little part about how the washing that Jesus did was symbolic of washing away sin, in case there were other people who didn’t understand.
Next was the scene where Peter would say loudly that even if all the other disciples left Jesus, HE would NOT! And Jesus told him that he WOULD… before the rooster crowed the next day.
Then suddenly… there was an awful sound from the back of the church! I jumped in my chair and almost dropped my script.
It was the sound of a terrified bird screaming.
Only it wasn’t a real bird. It was a man! A big, dark man with a necklace of chains hanging around his neck had made that horrible, scary noise. And he made it again, only louder and scarier!
People turned around, saw the man, and started talking in fearful voices. A few people in the back rows moved away from him. I looked for Dad but he had already started to move around the side wall towards the back.
Then I looked at Kukana. He was terrified and as white as any Malawi boy could look!
Then I knew.
This was the powerful and evil Medicine Man from the village. How did he get inside IBF? Who had told him about my play?
Kukana was shaking so badly I thought he was going to fall over. I started to get up to catch him.
Suddenly, Andrew yelled out in his loudest voice, “SIMON, SIMON…SATAN WANTS TO HAVE YOU. HE WANTS TO TRY TO SHAKE YOU UP!! BUT I HAVE PRAYED FOR YOU THAT YOUR FAITH DOES… NOT… FAIL!”
I stared at Andrew. His eyes were fierce and his fists were clenched. HE wasn’t scared. He was mad.
Kukana looked at Andrew too. He stopped shaking and stood taller.
The dark man glared at Andrew over the people’s heads. He glared at him a long time, his lips curling in a snarl, but our “Jesus” never moved.
Then, before my dad could even get to him, the man whirled around and ran out.
There was absolute silence.
Then, in a clear voice, Kukana said, “Jesus, your prayer saved me! I was going to be killed by that man, but your words…. the words from the Bible scared him off.”
Kukana turned to me then and started crying. “April, I want to be a Christian too. I want the real Jesus to be my Savior! I want to be washed all over clean, just like the real Peter.”
I smiled so big at him that I thought my face would split. There were some people who said “Amen” in the congregation. Some women all over the church started singing softly, then loudly, praising God.
Daddy came onto the platform and kneeled down beside Kukana. It got quiet again. He spoke in a normal voice, but people in the back row could hear him.
“Kukana, do you know that God is Holy and that nobody can ever be as perfect as He demands them to be?”
“Do you understand that anyone who is not perfectly good cannot have eternal life in God’s heaven?”
He nodded. A couple people said, “amen” softly.
“Kukana, did you learn John 3:16 since you’ve been coming to Sunday School? Can you say it to me?”
Softly the dead mice eater said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only bebot…bebotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him…. shall NOT die…. but have eternal life. John 3:16”
“What does that mean to you?”
“That Jesus came and died for me, that I wouldn’t have to die for my own sins. I could live with God in heaven forever. And even though I did a lot of bad things – like Peter did when he denied Jesus and even cussed him – even though I am like Peter, Jesus can forgive me. He prays for me. He wants me as His friend. And I want to be His friend too!”
Then Kukana started crying. He put his hands tightly over his eyes and pressed hard. “I’m sorry Jesus! Will You forgive me?”
He looked up at dad , “Will He?”
Dad said, “YES! He already has!” He gave Kukana a big, long hug.
People in the congregation were standing up now and clapping and saying, “Praise God!” and “Thank You, Lord!”
Finally dad stood up and everybody quieted and sat down. “We have seen a miracle here today. There are angels singing in Heaven about this boy’s new birth.”
He looked at me and smiled. “April, it was all those Bible verses in your play that did it. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and it came to Kukana today. God blessed your play more than you could have wished.”
Well kids, we never finished the last two scenes. Melody and June didn’t get a chance to accuse Peter of denying Jesus. I don’t think Kukana could have done that “denying scene” anyway. He was totally believing in his new Savior now!
And the last scene, about Jesus restoring Peter…. well, THAT happened in real life right before our eyes!
After we changed out of our costumes and gathered up the props, we walked home feeling really good. Kukana couldn’t stop asking Dad questions and getting answers that made him even happier.
“I’ve been reading the Bible a lot since I got into April’s play, Mr. Matthews,” Kukana said. “Now I want a Bible of my own so I can read the stories about Peter and Jesus to my friends in the village. I want them to know how Jesus loves them too!”
“We’ll get you a Bible at Sunday School next week,” said my Dad.
Kukana skipped ahead of us and did a cartwheel right in the street! We all laughed.
And then kids, I had this brilliant, over-the-top, fantastic, glorious, coolest-ever idea!!!!!
“Kukana,” I said. “Do you want to read my play to your friends too? In Chichewa? We can all come and act it out for them while you say the words. You SAID you could do it……CAN you?”
“YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! ” he yelled, jumping as high as he could and flinging his arms up as tall as the sky!
Kids, I’m so happy that Kukana got saved, aren’t you?
And we really DID go to the Village a couple weeks later and put on my play in Chichewa. This time, Jacob Kopp played the par of Peter, while Kukana translated the narration and all the actors’ lines. he wasn’t even afraid of the Medicine man, who strangely would not come close to our little troupe.
Kukana and I are going to write another play for his village friends. I think this one will be about PAUL and his first missionary journey.
Love until next time! I don’t know who will be writing…maybe one of my brothers and sisters! Hahahaha.
Meanwhile, why don’t YOU use YOUR talents for God. See what happened when I wrote a play?
“Come, my young friends and listen to me. And I will teach you to honor the Lord.” Psalm 34:11 The Good News Bible
Parents note: Witch Doctors, which I call “Medicine Men” in my stories, have a strong influence in village life in Malawi even today. They use fear and “dark magic” to keep people in their power and in debt to them. EVEN Christian converts, when asked if they believe in the power of witchcraft, will say yes. I have no wish to promote their craft in any way, other than to say, the devil and his minions have no chance against the power of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
(Read Bible passages like Luke 4:33-36, Luke 7:26-39 and Luke 9:38-43, that show Jesus’ power over the demonic world. Also Paul’s experience with a magician in Acts 13:6-11.)
I’ve been reading through the book of Psalms in the Bible, one each night before I turn out the lights. It’s amazing what wonderful sleep you get with God’s words the last thing on your mind. The Psalms are familiar, I have read them many times and have always received help, hope, a lightened heart, and at times a bit of scolding as well. It’s good for me.
Psalm 19:7-14 is very well known.There are praise songs and hymns written from its words. It extols the Law of the LORD; tells readers the aspects and wonders of God’s commandments and principles, and reminds them of the rewards of cherishing and obeying them. Written by Israel’s King David over 3,000 years ago, it nevertheless is God’s Word for us today.
These phrases are from the Good News Bible, a modern, easy-to-read translation that I am using for the Psalms, as a change, so I don’t run over them too quickly from familiarity. The thoughts and insights about them are my own as I review again, this lovely portion of scripture. Thank you, David. And thank YOU, my God.
The Law of the LORD is perfect. And that’s because HE is perfect. He spoke no laws that need rescinding or amending.
It gives new strength — when we see the attributes of Almighty God in the Word and trust Him. When we see the Way that we should walk. When we see justice poured put on evil. When we see what reward He has prepared for for His faithful children.
It is trust-worthy. And that is because it is perfect. Because God is good. Because He is faithful and keeps His promises always.
It gives wisdom to those who lack it. Because it is truth, ALL truth and applicable for all life.
It is right/righteous. Because God is holy and right. Because He can do no wrong at all.
It brings happiness to those who obey it. Because God knows what is best for His children.
It is just. Because God is omniscient, knowing time, from eternity past to eternity future. Because He knows all the heart of man, even the secret parts. Because he is good and perfect and holy.
It gives understanding to the mind. So we will know God, make good decisions, live as He desires.
It is always fair. Perhaps not to our finite, sinful minds, but in God’s sovereign plan for the world. Because He is righteous. He alone knows the thoughts and intents of the heart and judges accordingly.
It is more desirable than the finest gold. To know God in His word is eternal life. To possess it in the heart is riches beyond imagination.
It is sweeter than the purest honey. It soothes anxiety and fear. It brings joy unspeakable. It comforts and strengthens. It reveals the great love of God.
It gives knowledge. To know God is to trust Him completely and to love him with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. To truly know Him means we long to tell others of His goodness and wonderful works.
It rewards obedience. With peace and assurance. With intimate access to God. With purity of heart.
None of us can clearly see his own errors. God’s Word lovingly but firmly points them out and shows us ways to avoid them. If we “hide His Word in our hearts” (memorize and meditate on it), it will keep us from both HIDDEN FAULTS and WILLFUL SINS, and give us the strength to resist temptation.
Oh LORD God, may MY words and MY thoughts reflect Your perfection, Your righteousness and holiness, Your faithfulness and purity, Your wisdom and truth…today and always.
THOT: God’s word is meant to be BREAD for daily use, not CAKE for special occasions.
Don’t Blame Me.
These are the ancient words of a poem carved in a gothic, medieval alphabet on a cathedral door in Lubeck, Germany.
Translated into modern English, the words take the form of a frightening poem, calling believers as well as unbelievers to look to ‘the thoughts and intents’ of their hearts.
You call me eternal, then do not seek me
You call me fair, then do not love me
You call me gracious, then do not trust me
You call me just, then do not fear me
You call me life, then do not choose me
You call me light, then do not see me
You call me Lord, then do not respect me
You call me master, then do not obey me
You call me merciful, then do not thank me
You call me mighty, then do not honor me
You call me noble, then do not serve me
You call me rich, then do not ask me
You call me Savior, then do not praise me
You call me shepherd, then do not follow me
You call me the Way, then do not walk with me
You call me wise, then do not heed me
You call me Son of God, then do not worship me
When I condemn you….. then do not blame me.
I heard these words this morning in a recorded sermon by John McArthur.* They were written anonymously centuries ago, perhaps chiseled by a workman at the behest of a clergyman whose love for God and life of service were growing cold. Or, possibly by a zealous minister seeing his congregation becoming prideful, insincere, and self-satisfied. The year was 1173, but the wisdom of the poem is for us to consider today.
McArthur’s sermon was titled “Beware of Hypocrisy” from his Living Real series (1969). He referred to verses in Matthew 6 and 7 from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 6:1 – “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before man, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.”
Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers’.”
These are sobering, convicting words by Christ, meant to shake hypocrites from their self righteous pride and turn them (repent) to the only Righteous One, for true salvation.
Although I am a believer and I trust fully in the Lord Jesus for my salvation and righteousness before God, I still at times walk in pride, ego, selfishness, and hypocrisy toward God and others. This prayer is my heart, crying out today for genuine love toward my God and for a life that honors him in all I do.
“O, God and Father of my Lord Jesus, help me not to live in hypocrisy!
Help me to heed your words of wisdom and walk in your Way, living gratefully the redeemed life you have given me through your Son, Jesus. May my heart seek you, obey you, and honor you in all I do.
Help me to see you as the ultimate Light and Truth and to seek you with all my heart and soul. Help me to trust in your grace absolutely and thank you always for your mercy and forgiveness. You are eternal, almighty, sovereign; my Lord and King.
Help me as your child to freely ask ‘anything’ of you because you are rich beyond all my imagination, and You delight in supplying my needs and giving good gifts to me.
O Shepherd, Savior, Son of God, I worship you. Fill my heart and my mouth with praise and gratitude. Make me true!”
*John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College & Seminary, and featured teacher with the “Grace to You” media ministry. All of John’s 3,500 sermons, spanning more than four decades of ministry, are available for free on this website.
In 1969, after graduating from Talbot Theological Seminary, John came to Grace Community Church. The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage
I LOVE BOOKS.
The love the smell of them, the sight of them, the heft of them (print versions), the content of them.
Books have been important to me most of my life, from those early Nancy Drew Mysteries (the originals) read with a flashlight under the covers at night, to the marvelous Gothic mystery-romances by Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt and Daphne du Maurier, which carried me away to exotic places and times and “gentle” love. (My favorite and most often read one is still This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart, set on an island in Greece.)
Then there came the countless books I read to my two boys as they grew up, from the whimsical Dr. Seuss rhymes and many volumes of illustrated children’s’ verse and fairy tales, to the detailed, cartoon towns, jobs and objects depicted by Richard Scarry.
I encouraged my granddaughters to read board books, chapter books and more. My oldest fell in love with Nancy Drew (of course!) and then… Jane Austin.
So eager was I to make books precious to them, that I wrote serialize stories, simple short stories, treasure hunt birthday stories (with activities) and eventually a couple junior-age books for them.
I love a lot of genres, but my favorite is still mysteries, and I’ve graduated to literary-mysteries like those written by Madeline Gornell, and my favorite author today, Louise Penny. And now, after being a member of Mystery Writers of American and Sisters In Crime (writers), I also read lots of books for review in magazines and for author friends.
I am a reader. But I’ve never joined a book club.
Many women’s magazines have monthly articles featuring a book club located in a town within their readership. They give a brief highlight of what they do and list some of their favorite books. Also, these magazines feature a page of suggested books for reading – women, teens, children, history, humor, biography, etc.
Westways, the magazine of the Auto Club does this, and so does the monthly AARP newsletter (yes, I’m a senior!).
My reasons for not joining a book club were several:
1. time commitment, not only for the meetings, but for the time to read the book and consider the questions.
2. what if I didn’t like the books to be read?
3. what if my Christian based opinions were scorned? (Yes, I know… it is to be expected, and I should take joy in standing up for Christ.)
4. where does one FIND a book club?
A gal in my eight-member writing group – The Writers In Residence – Bonnie Schroeder recently wrote her blog post on being a member (and featured author) of a book club. She writes about what a book club IS, how one operates, the fun and not-so-fun books she’s read, discussing and moderating the chosen monthly book, and lastly the nail-biting anxiety of having her own book read.
Check out her post at: http://bit.ly/2ahjheK
So, why do I write about book clubs on a blog that features devotional topics?
Because I realized that I have been a member of the BEST Book Of The Month Club ever! It’s all about the Bible; the Word of God. You can read and reread the Bible as often as you like, pick out favorite passages, begin at the beginning, the middle or the ending, go to it for uplifting joy, inspiration, comfort, promise, knowledge, marching orders, even scolding! It contains biography, history, thrilling adventures, even romance. It is written for all ages, for all times. It’s truths “endure forever.”
BSF has an in-depth reading, studying, and discussion of the Book of Books. Over the years it has covered nearly every portion in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. It runs for 9 months, concurrent to most school years, and meets once-a-week at a nearby host church. It will change your life, your heart, your thinking, and perhaps even your eternal future as the Gospel is proclaimed. Read it’s featured book, discuss it with other women (or men), hear it explained, and read supporting passages. You will never regret joining THIS book club, I promise.
The new study begins in September 2016, with the Gospel book of John. Contact Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) for where and when and how you can join this amazing “club.” There are “classes” around the world for all ages, and probably several in your own city.
Your only requirement? The Bible. And a desire to read it.
I’m anxious about the deadlines that I and others have set for me, and find myself biting my lip as once again what I’m working on just won’t go right!
I’m frustrated and irritable. I snap at the ones I love, who by the way are only trying to help. I feel like (and often do) scream to myself. My head aches, my nerves are jittery, and I long for a nap.
Ever feel that way?
The only peace of my day comes from my early morning times of devotions with the Lord. In these, He focuses my mind on things above, on things that really count – things that HE wants done. He quiets my mind and helps me to prioritize my tasks for the day (if I will only follow through!).
Here are some verses He’s led me to in these mornings with Him. These will go at the top of my “to do” list.
Psalm 37:7 – Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him.
Psalm 62:5 – “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.”
Lamentations 3:24 –“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.
Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am the LORD.”
Psalm 37:34 – Wait for the LORD, and keep His way.
Psalm 40:1 – “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry.”
Psalm 5:3 – “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice!”
Zephaniah 3:17b – The LORD your God is in your midst…He will quiet you by His love.
Psalm 131:2 – “I have calmed and quieted my soul.”
Isaiah 30:15b – Thus said the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, “…in quietness and rest shall be your strength.”
Isaiah 40:31 – They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Lamentations 3:25-26 – The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Psalm 27:14 – Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage. Wait for the LORD.
HAPPY NEW YEAR – 2016
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~~~ Philippians 3:13-14
Sometime in the future I want to write a post on Forgetting and Remembering – the things that God forgets and the things we are to forget, and the things that God remembers and those we are to remember – but for now, on this first day of January in 2016, I want to write about FORGETTING and PRESSING ONWARD.
Yes, December 31st is always a good time to review the previous year, remembering what happened in those 365 days; how God used them to teach you, discipline you, encourage you, and grow you. A good way is to peruse your journals (if you keep them) or your prayer lists, or even your appointment calendar.
You will find that GOD has been faithful beyond any expectations, and that YOU have failed Him in many ways and at many times. But you will also find, if you have truly sought Him in prayer and Bible reading, that you are – with His omnipotent help – becoming more like Jesus.
In the opening scripture, that is just what the upward call of God IS – to be transformed more and more into the image of His Son.
So, today, on January 1st, resolve (if you make no other resolutions) to press on toward that “upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
PRAY and ask God to give you a heart for Him; a humble, repentant, teachable heart. Ask Him to show you your sins and give you the strength by His Spirit to forsake them and not yield an inch to them…ever. Tell Him of your desire to love and know Him more. Ask Him to guide you every day, and then follow that guidance. IN everything and FOR everything, give thanks to Him (it’s a sacrifice of sorts, I know) for, if you truly want to follow Him, all those things are in His will for you, and will work for your good and for His glory.
READ the Bible a lot! Daily, several times a day. Listen to it being read and explained. Study it. Memorize it as God leads you. Ask Him to open the eyes and ears of your understanding so your knowledge of HIM will increase; not just intellectual knowledge (which brings pride), but heart knowledge (which will humble you). Long to truly know Him, as an intimate friend who will never leave you, as a dear Father who loves you unconditionally, as a constant companion to comfort and guide you, and as the savior of your eternal soul. Soak in the Words of His book. Sing them. Pray them back to God. Rejoice in them.